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Dull Dull Dull. Headphones and DACs


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Hi AS peeps

I'm wondering if people have found various well rated headphones and DACs quite muffled and lifeless.

Just tried the ifi zen Can and Dac. Just boring to listen to with no dynamics? Sent back

Tried the new Cambridge Audio dacmagic 200m. Dull, boring and life less. Sent back

Tried the Highly rated 1000m mk 4 or what ever it is, boomy, and dull. Sent straight back

Tried the B&W p7 same, sent back. 
The above all highly rated?

I play guitar and record some music and know how things should sound and the above just dont sound ‘real’!

I have Shure 1540 headphones. Great for me....

Ive found my crusty old DAC X6 better than all the above?

Any one have comments on their general experience of these type of units?

C.

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Curious as i dont get that with the Shure headphones?

Also have an Audiolab mdac mini which was clear as a bell but its died : (

Interested that If it was noise where do you think that might arise from?

i have a mains conditioner and loads of fancy cable. No linear power supply yet.

surely it wouldnt make the huge difference ive found?

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4 hours ago, Citrus said:

Curious as i dont get that with the Shure headphones?

Also have an Audiolab mdac mini which was clear as a bell but its died : (

Interested that If it was noise where do you think that might arise from?

i have a mains conditioner and loads of fancy cable. No linear power supply yet.

surely it wouldnt make the huge difference ive found?

You don't mention the source which is just as important as the end gear is. USB is prone to transmitting noise that sounds over bright mistaken for clarity. Different cables attenuate these effects. Noise is responsible for lack of detail and collapsed soundstage,  removing it or even reducing is not a simple exercise. 

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Hi O&H

Good point.

I use USB. I did spent a load of money on an Adioquest cable, an A to B. It improved clarity with les ‘fuzz’ : )

What are your views on this kind of thing?

One problem is my 12v pc which has an adapter. Its proven very difficult to get a Linear P S as its high wattage and so high amps

it needs 120w with at least 10amps.

Interestingly I tried my other PC which I gave the same setup. That was 240v straight in with no adapter.

I actually found this had a tiny bit of audible distortion.

The PC’s are both quite new with m2 drives for OS and SSD storage drives and loads of ram and quick Cpu’s....

C

 

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5 hours ago, Citrus said:

Hi O&H

Good point.

I use USB. I did spent a load of money on an Adioquest cable, an A to B. It improved clarity with les ‘fuzz’ : )

What are your views on this kind of thing?

One problem is my 12v pc which has an adapter. Its proven very difficult to get a Linear P S as its high wattage and so high amps

it needs 120w with at least 10amps.

Interestingly I tried my other PC which I gave the same setup. That was 240v straight in with no adapter.

I actually found this had a tiny bit of audible distortion.

The PC’s are both quite new with m2 drives for OS and SSD storage drives and loads of ram and quick Cpu’s....

C

 

In a nutshell, various SMPS and PWM controllers on the motherboard couple their switching noise to the ground plane.  That same noise rides on any external connection like USB to the victim DAC. 

The same switching noise ends up on the AC and travels along to other audio components,  much like a virus, but is limited to conduction, through wiring only.

 

Have a search on common and differential mode noise, and capacitovely coupled noise on the Web.

 

 

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Thanks 1&1/2

Great info thanks.

This feels like an up hill struggle sorting all this out but it starts comming in to focus after a while.

As with a lot of people my bank account is the next phase.

You buy a good computer and a few other bits and have no reason to doubt they wont be good enough then find you need to start all over again! ‘Ouch’ my credit cards melting : (

I seem to be using one album as a control as its got some horrible harmonics. I question whether it’s simply a bad recording but there seems to be no problem with his other work.

In fact you can find it on Tidal. I dont have the hi res version but play it through Roon.

The track is ‘Ocean Floor’ by Alucidnation.

between the 2 - 3 minute mark theres a really nasty sounding harmonic distortion bit. The SQ is unpleasant.

I have a FLAC and WAV version on the PC and they sound the same.

May be you could have a listen. Its supposed to be relaxing!

May well not be your thing but Im into a bit of old Brian Eno etc.

thanks

C

 

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Sorry the album is called ‘Meditations’!

A bit cringy; Don’t laugh : )

In fact once youve found it erase the tital from your mind instantly!

C

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This is good enough to hear what you are mentioning, I think,

 

 

Yes, the harmonics in the time frame you mention could be a problem - of course, this has nothing to to do with the recording, and everything to do with the playback quality - it goes to the heart of the area where digital reproduction makes it obvious that the replay chain is not on its best behaviour. It's also the reason that pipe organ recordings frequently are below par when you try for a bit of volume ...

 

The easy way out is to 'dumb down' the system; do all sorts of tweaks which don't get rid of the problem, but just make it less obvious when listening - the 'hard' way is to do a careful evaluation of the chain, and work out where the issue is; and resolve it.

Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Over and out.

.

 

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Thats the one!

Its quite ear piercing, Luckily i’m not really bothered about that track but its a great benchmark piece to test you rig out.

I cant help wondering why the whole music industry is based on a flawed system.

It seems to make a mockery of purism as theres probably only 2 people in the world with rigs good enough to hear it. I wont start on my views about purism (oops too late)

If its unpleasant to listen to then whats the point!

i find this whole thing quite bizarre that there are so many forums about improving hifi set ups that there is obviously a problem with the whole thing!

Ok. Done moaning now : )

You have to deal with how things are!

Ill go and have a word with the bank or sell my house, maybe rent a room in a recording studio : )

Thanks C.

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On 4/22/2021 at 12:53 PM, Citrus said:

Hi AS peeps

I'm wondering if people have found various well rated headphones and DACs quite muffled and lifeless.

Just tried the ifi zen Can and Dac. Just boring to listen to with no dynamics? Sent back

Tried the new Cambridge Audio dacmagic 200m. Dull, boring and life less. Sent back

Tried the Highly rated 1000m mk 4 or what ever it is, boomy, and dull. Sent straight back

Tried the B&W p7 same, sent back. 
The above all highly rated?

I play guitar and record some music and know how things should sound and the above just dont sound ‘real’!

I have Shure 1540 headphones. Great for me....

Ive found my crusty old DAC X6 better than all the above?

Any one have comments on their general experience of these type of units?

C.

 

I listen mostly with headphones sourced from PC USB connection and my subjective thoughts on this matter is that source quality matters a lot if/when you would like to improve from "entry level". In a Linn world there is/was this thought - source first. Necessarily I don't say it has to be but I like the general philosophy behind it. Garbage in - garbage out, you know.

Computers are said to be a noisy environment for audio use. There are some scientific reasons making it worse and there are some user experienced stuff to improve that some might think of crazy and unscientific placebo. Yet, the general consensus seems in subjective/experimental community to be lots of them mattering when raising the bar regarding sound quality.

I think you would find interesting reading from a threads like:

While I have no experience regarding mentioned units I would say you should think of trying out a so called audiophile USB card and power it with best LPS you can afford. Don't hesitate to spend more on LPS than USB card, If you have the budget. Of course there are other options to omit the USB connection too. Though I can recommend only things I have tried myself.

During my journey in this hobby, one of the most meaningful components on PC based audio is separate USB-card and LPS. Actually I would say that you 'need' such USB card and LPS for the card. You necessarily don't 'need' LPS for the whole PC unless you aim for the real high end. You can even start with plain card without external LPS to hear the difference in your setup your self.

Like with any audio/digital craziness there is constant evolution so you could find good used components for sale on this forum for example. I have personally tried Matrix Audio Element H, JCAT USB Femto and JCAT USB Xe (in use right now) and even from those you could choose one suitable to your budget, price in respective order from cheapest to priciest.

 

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Hi Savolax

Well that all seems incredibly useful.

I will peruse will detail. This sounds like some juicy material

Only heard about USB cards a couple of time so that will be interesting to read up on.

Too many options!!! I cant cope with that : (

Thanks for taking the time to do the post : )

C.

 

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Hi Savolax

Actually going back to dinosaur vinyl days it was the same philosophy. Spend a heap load on the turntable arm and cartridge. The sauce is all! otherwise how can you improve anything from that point!

C.

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On 4/22/2021 at 6:53 PM, Citrus said:

Hi AS peeps

I'm wondering if people have found various well rated headphones and DACs quite muffled and lifeless.

Just tried the ifi zen Can and Dac. Just boring to listen to with no dynamics? Sent back

Tried the new Cambridge Audio dacmagic 200m. Dull, boring and life less. Sent back

Tried the Highly rated 1000m mk 4 or what ever it is, boomy, and dull. Sent straight back

Tried the B&W p7 same, sent back. 
The above all highly rated?

I play guitar and record some music and know how things should sound and the above just dont sound ‘real’!

I have Shure 1540 headphones. Great for me....

Ive found my crusty old DAC X6 better than all the above?

Any one have comments on their general experience of these type of units?

C.

 

As someone who has been into headphone audio for around 30 years (! Though only the last 14 or so seriously) allow me some thoughts:

 

1. ZenCan and DAC: At the low end, you're not going to get great dynamics. These products are limited by price, and what often loses out is the power supply, which is critical for dynamics and detail. IIRC the same headphone amp exists in the Pro iDSD, and sounds fantastic in that.

2. Anything from a regularly hi-fi brand (Cambridge, B&W) is going to be compromised by having to go through a dealer and distributor network and end up priced a fair bit higher than brands sold direct, like the humorously named, but totally serious, "Schiit Audio".

3. Wireless, noise-cancelling headphones, while excellent compared to, say, 5 years ago, are all going to sound muffled no matter how clever the electronics. Worse still is that Sony tuned them for modern, brightly-mastered music. They don't sound so great if you're like me and like acoustic music. They are amazing at cancelling noise though, which I value more when flying.

 

If you're only listening at home, and don't need portability, there's a lot of great gear out there, but it's mostly from companies that pretty much exclusively make gear for headphone listening. 

 

Shameless plug: I have a Youtube channel that might be of help to you: https://youtube.com/currawong

 

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Yes, utterly shameless and self promoting : )

I thought the title ‘things i dont like about forums’ was amusing : )

Actually haven’t had time to look at the vids yet.

Ive come to the conclusion about the main stream reviews that they are complete bo#£&£ks.

Luckily ive ended up with a pair of Shure headphones that are clear as a bell.

Strangely there were comparisons between B&W and they’re chalk and cheese?

i also ended up with an Audiolab dac that was slated but sounds to me way beyond some of the others that are supposed to be ‘better’

moan moan moan.

A strange journey this is!

C. 

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13 hours ago, Citrus said:

i also ended up with an Audiolab dac that was slated but sounds to me way beyond some of the others that are supposed to be ‘better’

moan moan moan.

A strange journey this is!

C. 

 

It's a strange journey, because there is poor understanding of what the problems are, when the SQ is subjectively not right. An extreme reluctance to 'blame' one's own rig, because so much money and energy has been expended on setting it up - and ego is involved, 😉. Much easier to blame the recording, the room, one's mood, etc, etc ...

 

So, a typical workaround is, yes, to "dull it down" - the treble not working right is the great offender; and a thousand excuses are trotted out to give oneself permission to wind this part of the spectrum back ... equipment that one way or another does the latter is given a thumbs up; and people who just want to hear the whole shebang go, Huhh??!, when they hear one of the anointed components.

 

What this means is that a hifi system normally just sounds like, a hifi system - and not something that can convince one of being "real" music playing happening.

Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Over and out.

.

 

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37 minutes ago, fas42 said:

 

It's a strange journey, because there is poor understanding of what the problems are, when the SQ is subjectively not right. An extreme reluctance to 'blame' one's own rig, because so much money and energy has been expended on setting it up - and ego is involved, 😉. Much easier to blame the recording, the room, one's mood, etc, etc ...

 

So, a typical workaround is, yes, to "dull it down" - the treble not working right is the great offender; and a thousand excuses are trotted out to give oneself permission to wind this part of the spectrum back ... equipment that one way or another does the latter is given a thumbs up; and people who just want to hear the whole shebang go, Huhh??!, when they hear one of the anointed components.

 

What this means is that a hifi system normally just sounds like, a hifi system - and not something that can convince one of being "real" music playing happening.

en anglais, s'il vous plait

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Okay ...

 

C'est un voyage étrange, car on comprend mal quels sont les problèmes, alors que la SQ n'est pas juste subjectivement. Une réticence extrême à `` blâmer '' sa propre plate-forme, car tant d'argent et d'énergie ont été dépensés pour la mettre en place - et l'ego est impliqué, 😉. Beaucoup plus facile de blâmer l'enregistrement, la salle, l'humeur, etc, etc ...

 

Donc, une solution de contournement typique est, oui, de «ternir les choses» - les aigus qui ne fonctionnent pas correctement sont le grand contrevenant; et mille excuses sont lancées pour se donner la permission de remonter cette partie du spectre ... l'équipement que d'une manière ou d'une autre fait ce dernier reçoit un coup de pouce; et les gens qui veulent juste entendre tout le shebang partir, Huhh ??!, quand ils entendent l'un des composants oints.

 

Ce que cela signifie, c'est qu'un système hifi sonne normalement comme un système hifi - et non quelque chose qui peut convaincre quelqu'un d'être de la «vraie» musique en cours de lecture.

Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Over and out.

.

 

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31 minutes ago, fas42 said:

Okay ...

 

C'est un voyage étrange, car on comprend mal quels sont les problèmes, alors que la SQ n'est pas juste subjectivement. Une réticence extrême à `` blâmer '' sa propre plate-forme, car tant d'argent et d'énergie ont été dépensés pour la mettre en place - et l'ego est impliqué, 😉. Beaucoup plus facile de blâmer l'enregistrement, la salle, l'humeur, etc, etc ...

 

Donc, une solution de contournement typique est, oui, de «ternir les choses» - les aigus qui ne fonctionnent pas correctement sont le grand contrevenant; et mille excuses sont lancées pour se donner la permission de remonter cette partie du spectre ... l'équipement que d'une manière ou d'une autre fait ce dernier reçoit un coup de pouce; et les gens qui veulent juste entendre tout le shebang partir, Huhh ??!, quand ils entendent l'un des composants oints.

 

Ce que cela signifie, c'est qu'un système hifi sonne normalement comme un système hifi - et non quelque chose qui peut convaincre quelqu'un d'être de la «vraie» musique en cours de lecture.

 

Nul doute que cela restera un commentaire inapprécié, enfoui dans cette moquerie acide des idées sensées.

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All came up in French for some odd reason

Rando are you French? Pardon me if you are.

Its all gone a bit wrong somewhere?

Anyhow... I think there is a strong point in whats said about mood, well to a point.

I think with cheaper units theres always room for improvement.

As with personal preference to sound, I think if what your doing is enjoyable then thats all good : )

C.

 

 

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